The cramping started in the car — sharp pains that felt like the spasms I get when my period is imminent. By the time I got back to our apartment and settled in from an afternoon of pedicures and massages at a spa party with my girlfriends, my groin felt like it was being shanked by 20 angry men. And the blood would not stop coming.
Hushed calls to Nick. Rushed ride to the hospital. Needles and pokes and questions from men in white coats. Uncertainty. Tears. Fear. Maybe I had a cyst on my ovaries that burst. Maybe I had fibroids. Maybe it was a period more painful than usual, they said. An ER room full of physicians, but nobody knew what the problem was — just that I was in pain, and bleeding, and then suddenly not, and whatever “it” was, it was for my doctor to sort out, but it probably wasn’t anything too major.
Turns out it was major.
“You had a miscarriage,” my OB-GYN said easily — too easily. Like she was telling me “Oh, by the way, you have sleep in your eye,” or “There’s lint on your shirt.” These things happen, she explained in measured, clipped, technical terms. You get pregnant and the embryo isn’t sufficient and your body, knowing it’s not sustainable, expels it.
I could barely process her words; the four most hurtful ones — you had a and miscarriage — crackled like thunder over all the others, and the tears — oh, the tears — rushed from my eyes like the endless torrent of water down Niagara Falls.
“You’ll be fine,” she said. Insisted, really. But I wasn’t fine. I wasn’t fine at all. See, Nick and I had been trying to get pregnant for a few months before then — had gone through all the requisite paces to create a family together. I was a folic acid and vitamin-popping, temperature-checking, ovulation-stalking lunatic — doing everything the books said I needed to do to get pregnant. And my husband came along for the ride, dutifully doing his part to make our dream of creating a little human being together a reality, even when it started feeling more like a chore than a loving act between a man and his wife.
And, that month when my period was late and I peed on the stick and I saw the faint pink line, I wrinkled my brow and got kinda happy for the kinda news that the pregnancy test seemed to be telling me. Maybe I was pregnant. Maybe I wasn’t. A faint line meant something, right? Right? I was going to be a mother. Maybe.
The blood test at my doctor’s office confirmed that I was, indeed, pregnant. And then I was not. And for weeks, I mourned the baby that never was — this child who was supposed to have been my firstborn. I wondered if that baby was a girl who would have been round and chocolatey like me — or a thick little boy who would have been full of giggles and energy and spirit, with big ears like his daddy. Mostly, I wondered why God would see fit to let me get pregnant and, before I even knew for sure if I was with child, would take my baby away from here.
He blessed me with three others, though — two little girls I carried and birthed on my own, and a stepson, all of who bring me joy every day. And I am grateful for every hour, every minute, every second that I have with them. But, all these years later, I still wonder about the baby who never was. I get a little angry that my doctor seemed a little too nonchalant about our loss. And a whole lot sad when I consider how many women have suffered miscarriages only to be hushed up: to have the devastation dismissed as a “natural” act. Only to be admonished for being shocked and then sad and then angry and forced to deal with the emotional trauma of it all alone.
Maybe things have changed since that fateful day when my baby was here and then not. Maybe doctors aren’t as clinical about something so hurtful and real for the whopping 20% of women whose pregnancies end in miscarriage. Maybe there are more places to find information now, like the miscarriage information I found on this site, rather than the paltry paragraphs I found picked over and buried deep in the few pregnancy books I could find in which the subject was even mentioned. More women certainly are speaking up about their experiences — Beyonce revealed her miscarriage in her documentary, Life Is But a Dream, and former President George Bush’s revelation about his mother’s miscarriage in his book a few years ago opened up a short national conversation on the topic. Those spontaneous conversations do help women who’ve gone through it make it to the other side — out of the depression and darkness and into the comfort of knowing that they’re not alone and there is still hope and options and life after the loss of a pregnancy. The loss of a child.
Still, people talk in hushed tones when the subject comes up or they cloak it in right-to-life vs. pro-choice arguments. (For the record, though I do not believe abortion is right for me, I am staunchly pro-choice and believe with my whole heart that it is a woman’s personal, individual right to decide for herself what she wants to do with her body.)
But for us mothers, the pain remains. 15 years later, I can attest to this. I’m still missing my baby that never was.